I posted here about the government’s plan to discontinue the 133-year-old Statistical Abstract, an invaluable tool for individuals and businesses alike.  Regardless one’s political or economic stripes — Dem or Repub, Keynes or Hayek — there’s consensus about the importance and value of the Statistical Abstract.

So, I ask the TBP readership to let their collective voice be heard by writing to the director of the Census Bureau, one Robert M. Groves (Robert.M.Groves(AT)census.gov).  Be respectful and don’t be a potty-mouth.

And if you’ve got an extra five minutes to kill, let your congress person know that you’d like the Abstract to be saved, apparently the budget that kills it has not yet been passed.


Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

18 Responses to “Going Grassroots on Saving Statistical Abstract”

  1. claws says:

    Aren’t all of the data sets in the Abstract just published elsewhere (e.g., the American Community Survey, Current Population Survey)? Is the gathering of all of these sources at one central website really that beneficial?

    Invictus: Yes, it is that beneficial, as the data comes from literally dozens of agencies and is extraordinarily time consuming to track down if one does not know the source.

  2. BusSchDean says:

    Here is what I wrote:

    Mr. Groves:

    I cannot imagine that I would say something in defense of the Statistical Abstract that others have not already made. My first appreciation for this wonderful resource was as a PhD student when Dr. Stanley Hollander (PhD, U of Penn) an esteemed senior faculty member at Michigan State University told me to do a bit of marketing research that related to the growth and success of Sears. Naturally I then learned about General Wood’s success at growing Sears to the largest retailer in the world. As I am sure you know, General Wood purportedly read the SA nightly. My argument is not that the SA provides information that is otherwise unavailable. My argument is that the SA has a known reputation for providing information key to business decision making. I would argue that the reputation of the reliability of an information source will become more important in the future, rather than less. Best of luck as you make your decision.

  3. BusSchDean says:


    Any interest in discussing the “honesty” of Carol Bartz? There may be value in drawing a distinction between competency and honesty. Though she may have not been the right leader for Yahoo does that then justify ANY treatment as an exit? Just a thought.

    Invictus: This was my post, but I have been thinking on the Bartz “honesty” issue. Don’t know how BR feels, but I’ve got some thoughts I might share.

  4. carleric says:

    Glad to help…hopefully Mr. groves will be oeverwhelmed with requests to not cease..

  5. gman says:

    With more statistics readily available to voters/consumers/investors it just makes them less vulnerable to be fleeced. Who that matters would actually benefits from that? Abstract is dead! Put a fork in it. I get all the “stats” I need from the editorial page of the WSJ or AEI.

  6. VennData says:

    Burn it.

    – David Koch

  7. BusSchDean says:

    Let’s see…WSj is owned by Murdoch whose credibility on many fronts has declined and, in fact, Bloomberg would not be Bloomberg without the complete failure of the WSJ specifically in terms of data. The AEI has come up with a useful look at data in the last four years. Good luck, gman!

  8. Transor Z says:

    To save $2.9 million?

    The thing is, any successful, time-honored governmental resource, like SA, is not convenient to the thesis that government is always evil/inefficient/corrupt.

  9. boveri says:

    Now wait a second — weren’t we told by Ronnie Reagan that government was the problem.

    Thanks to Ronnie a large segment of the population is now convinced that anything the government does is a worthless appendage to our great libertarian society. Thanks a lot Ronnie.

  10. mathman says:

    Obama’s about to cut social security and medicare funding (as a bargaining chip for his big “jobs” plan)and you’re worried about a statistical journal?


  11. constantnormal says:

    Sad but True … When we will not raise the money to repair our failing infrastructure, when we are headed directly towards eviscerating the rest of the social safety nets put in place during the Great Depression, the loss of an exceedingly convenient resource like the Statistical Abstract pales into insignificance.

    There are lines in the sand that MUST be defended, however futile the battle is likely to be … This is not one of them.

  12. blavag says:

    Strongly disagree with constantnormal that this is not one of those things to fight for. All we have is empirical evidence and we can’t let that be scattered, abandoned or tossed down the memory hole.

  13. doconrad says:

    I wrote in a couple weeks ago –

    Got this response:

    Given the current budget environment, the Census Bureau had to initiate
    difficult proposals to terminate and reduce a number of existing programs
    in order to acquire funds for higher priority programs for its Fiscal Year
    2012 (FY 2012) budget. The final decision regarding the Census Bureau’s
    FY 2012 budget, however, is the responsibility of the U.S. Congress.

    The Statistical Compendium program, comprised of the Statistical Abstract
    of the United States and its supplemental products—USA Counties database,
    the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, the County and City Data Book,
    State and County Quick Facts database, and MapStats—is one of those
    programs proposed for elimination effective October 1, 2011. Having
    served as the official federal summary of statistics on the United States
    and having provided a panoramic view of American civilization for the past
    130 years, the decision to propose the elimination of this program was not
    made lightly.

    Thank you for voicing your concerns and for your kind words of support for
    the continuation of the Statistical Compendia program. If you have
    additional questions, please contact me at (301) 763-4342.


    Jean Mullin
    Section Chief, Statistical Abstract
    US Census Bureau

  14. kmcclure says:

    I’d like to add a further response to a question above: “Aren’t all of the data sets in the Abstract just published elsewhere?” It’s true that the compilation of government data from dozens of agencies is a terrific time-saving and discovery aid, but the value of Stat Abstract goes beyond that.

    The Preface to Stat Abstract says that both government and private sources contribute to its mix of data. I checked on what that would mean if we lost the publication, and found out that about 100 of those private sources, which contribute to 179 tables in the book, require copyright permission, meaning that almost 13 percent of the tables in the book are copyrighted. That chunk of data would presumably no longer be publicly available by any means, no matter how hard you look. The resource is literally irreplaceable, because no one outside the Statistical Compendia Branch is capable of collecting it all without re-establishing all those arrangements — that is, without doing what the Statistical Compendia Branch already does, and does so much better and more efficiently than anyone else could. Yes, government does some things well, and those things are not the places we should look to first when looking for places to cut.

    One other point. The most current text used by government information librarians, “Fundamentals of Government Information,” describes Stat Abstract as “far and away the most important statistical resource. Unless one knows otherwise, it is nearly always the place to begin a statistical search.”

    Let’s be clear that eliminating this resource won’t even register a blip on the resolution of our ongoing fiscal disaster, but it will succeed in making us dumber as a nation.

    Invictus: Beautifully articulated. Thanks.

  15. Greg0658 says:

    I’ll chime in here and back 1 post:
    I’m sure if this data is that valuable – it will be collected – and evaluated for private gain .. you can buy a copy for a $ (and we will continue to pay for it / behind the price of a loaf of bread)

  16. victor says:

    Unless you know the numbers, like T. Boone Pickens says about our oil imports, you cannot have an intelligent discussion on most current issues. Keep the Statistical Abstract, I’ll write to Mr. Grove.

  17. [...] if you know and love the Statistical Abstract as much as I do, then help save it! Go to this post and follow the instructions to appeal to the census to not discontinue its [...]

  18. kmcclure says:

    Greg0658′s September 9th comment really raises a different question. Turning Stat Abstract over to the private sector would make the publication, or whatever its private sector successor would be, a niche product accessible to a small few.

    The Government Printing Office bookstore sells Stat Abstract for $39. Good luck finding it at that price if it goes to the private sector. The Census Bureau can sell the book at an affordable price and give away the data for free online because its collection is – scary word coming up – subsidized, at taxpayer expense. Corporate libraries already purchase privately published data books costing hundreds of dollars, and access data websites costing well into the thousands, because data collection costs money and has to be sold back at prices that are out of the reach of most in order to make a profit.

    The question this raises is whether it’s better for society in general, and the economy in particular, to have the data generally available for the benefit of all — small businesses, your school kids, the voter who wants to fact-check the debate remarks of a candidate for office — or restrict it to those who can afford access to yet another expensive data set. I stand by the conclusion in my earlier post, that the only thing the elimination of this resource accomplishes is a dumber and less informed populace.

    It’s a paradox to me that at the very moment when the only thing conservatives and liberals can agree on is the value of greater government transparency, there are efforts underway — from politicians in both parties — to shred the very instruments that provide it (the Administration wants to decimate the Census Bureau; the Republican House voted to defund the Government Printing Office’s wonderful Federal Digital System (FDsys)). Transparency costs money, and is worth the investment.